Cashmere or camelhair?

A battle between two noble cloths.

Cashmere and camel hair are two types of luxury cloth that have been used in tailoring for centuries.
They share similarities in pros as well as cons; both possess a beautifully soft hand, wear very warm, and are somewhat fragile.
Camel hair comes from – surprise – camels, while cashmere comes from cashmere goats, which vary slightly around the world.

While one is more well-known than the other, there may be surprising properties of camel hair that may entice you to consider it for your next garment.

Glossary: ‘noble’ cloth refers to a rare and expensive fibre.

Typical spinning
Camel hair tends to be spun into heavier cloths, used mostly for overcoating. It was used for jacketing more often in the past, however with the gradual trend toward lighter and finer cloths in the last few decades, its use as a jacketing cloth has declined.
Most textile bunches will only have camel hair coating qualities as a result.
Cashmere, on the other hand, tends to be spun into lighter cloths which are used for all sorts of purposes; jacketing, knitwear, accessories and so on. This owes to there being a variety of different spinning methods available for cashmere. Unlike camel hair, cashmere can be spun into a worsted cloth.
Note that cashmere cloth often has a variety of price points, meaning the cloth is not always the same even if it’s made from the same fibre.
The cheap stuff will not be worthwhile, so leave those budget cashmere sweaters on the shelf.

Cashmere jacketing cloths are known for being difficult when it comes to fit. They feel incredible to wear, but drape poorly and quickly lose their shape.
Camel hair is one of the best draping cloths I’ve come across.
Its weight makes for a flattering drape and crisp silhouette.
I’d go as far as to say camel hair is among the best draping cloths I’ve ever seen. It’s as forgiving as a heavy tweed, without the itch.

Camel hair cloth uses pros and cons
Camelhair coatings from Standeven. (navy and camel colour only)

Both camel hair and cashmere are known for poor resilience.
The quality of the fibres used will play a role in how long your cashmere or camel hair garments last before wearing thin and/or pilling.
Given the high price of these fibres and their fragility, both are often blended with wool to create a sturdier cloth that retains at least some of the characteristics of the noble fibre.
While camel is mostly blended with wool, somewhere in the range of 60-40 to 50-50, cashmere is used in many applications.
I’ve seen many woollen cloths blended with up to 10% cashmere in order to give the cloth a softer hand, and I’ve seen cashmere in blends with cotton and silk for knitwear.

I find pure camel hair to wear a good deal warmer than pure cashmere, when both are compared at a similar weight.
The weave of camel cloths often appears denser, leading to better heat retention, where the cashmere fibre’s inherent looseness leads to some heat escaping through the looser weave.

Simply put, both are bloody expensive.

Cashmere cloth usages pros and cons
Holland & Sherry produce a range of pure cashmere jacketings in the HS1992 bunch.

Why is cashmere more readily available than camel hair?
Simply put, there’s been a higher demand for cashmere for a much longer time.
It’s been marketed very well as an ultimate in luxury, and the continued demand created a continually growing industry to support it.
Look in any designer’s collections for a year (in a range of several decades) and you’ll almost be guaranteed to see cashmere.
Camel hair hasn’t seen anywhere near as much mainstream usage, and is less readily available as a result.

Can either be used for trousers?
Neither cashmere nor camel hair are recommended for trousers. Cashmere’s inability to drape or hold a crease rules it out, despite its ability to be spun into a worsted.
Regardless of that, both fibres are simply too fragile to be put through the punishment a trouser cloth needs to bear.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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